Dear Senator Jacques Legendre, President of the Association of Cultural Meeting Centres, Dear Yves Dauge, Dear President Jacques Rigaud, Members of the Commission, Dear Director of the Royaumont Cultural Meeting Centre [Francis Maréchal]

In my opinion, the label and the network of the Centres Cultures de Rencontres are an essential element in the policy of the Ministry of Culture and Communication.
I am pleased to be able to speak to you today in the presence of the national commission. Dear Jacques Rigaud, I would like to salute this initiative when you were director of Jacques Duhamel’s office in 1972, in close liaison with Jean Salusse, then director of the Caisse des Monuments Historiques, who was its first funder and active arm.
I would like to acknowledge his memory and his pioneering role.

This historical label is the result of a desire to include the development of historical monuments in a perspective of spatial planning, and of association of heritage with contemporary creation, in all its forms - notably the plastic arts, music and writing.

This network has combined the complementary requirements of heritage, creation and transmission.
Located in iconic heritage sites, the Crown has invested heavily in their restoration and conservation in partnership with owner communities, or by directly assuming the work on the monuments belonging to it such as the Chartreuse de Villeneuve les Avignon, of which I would like to salute the exemplary work in the field of the writings of the live show, and especially in the field of digital.

Over the years, the centres have also developed their capacity for artistic creation. Let me give you a few examples for 2011:
Here at the Royaumont Foundation, the creation of Mille et une nuits by Louise Moaty and La Merlaison, a ballet by Louis XIII created in 1635 and danced in Chantilly and Royaumont, has mirrored contemporary creation: in the musical field, with an exhibition on Xenakis and the view of the young generation of composers on the latter, but also on Stockhausen and Cage; in the field of choreography, with Myriam Gourfink and the program «Transforms, language?».

I am also thinking of the Parisian exhibitions of the IMEC – Abbey of Ardenne with Gisèle Freund at the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation, and “Editeurs, les lois du métier” at the BPI of the Centre Pompidou.
The European Baroque Academy of the Ambronay Cultural Meeting Centre, for its part, has become a Cultural Ambassador of the European Union. It will celebrate its 20th Academy in 2012. A commission was also placed and created, «La Passion selon Marie» by Zad Moultaka.

These examples speak for themselves, among many others concerning writers, artists, choreographers, which I unfortunately cannot all mention, but whose originality and quality have struck me very much.

It is in this spirit that I wish to propose to you a revival of the policy of my ministry in favor of the Cultural Centers of Encounters. The cultural meeting centres correspond to three of my main orientations:

- Consideration of rural areas;
- The desire to combine heritage and creation in a spirit of shared culture and economic and cultural valorisation of the monumental heritage, but also of sustainable and sustainable development of our territories;
- The development of quality cultural tourism, which will be a treasure for future generations, if we know how to pass it on to them.

The Cultural Meeting Centres correspond to a quality label and a concern for cultural democratization shared fully with local authorities.

I therefore decided the following measures:

- The consultation of this evolution will be included on the agenda of the next committees of local authorities for cultural development (CCTDC) during the year 2012;

The 1996 decree will be taken over by a decree, bearing a new political ambition for this label. The composition of the commission will be reviewed to better involve the entire central administration of my ministry: the General Secretariat, the Directorates-General for Heritage, Artistic Creation, Media and Cultural Industries, and the General Delegation for the French Language and the Languages of France.

The 1998 application circular will be adopted, following a dialogue with all the partners, in order to ensure a more harmonious and attentive follow-up of this network within my ministry and its decentralized services.

- Finally, I would like our committee to meet every year from now on.

As you know, cultural meeting centres have two complementary objectives:

- first of all to ensure the conservation, exploitation and access to the public of a monumental building or complex, which is of major interest, by giving it a strong cultural and intellectual orientation.
- to develop contemporary artistic and cultural creations in a context of mutual enrichment between heritage and creation. These can go through artist residencies, actions in the fields of research, meetings with the widest audiences, and the reception of professionals. The dialogue between the heritage place and the artistic approach of which it will be the place of inspiration or support, thus give a particular resonance to the creations that will emerge from this confrontation, making the monument see in another light.

The labeled institutions thus respond to several major concerns of our time: places of reflection, resourcing and confrontation for artists and researchers, they facilitate the public’s encounter with heritage and with the most innovative forms of creation. They combine, in the logic of their missions, an artistic, territorial, social and professional responsibility.
They combine, in the logic of their missions, an artistic, territorial, social and professional responsibility, carrying out ambitious, innovative artistic and cultural projects, concerned with a local anchorage as well as a national and international influence, and holders of proactive public development actions.
I also hope that the actions carried out by the JRC in the field of arts and cultural education, the integration of handicapped or prevented groups, and sustainable development will also be exemplary.

I wanted to convene today the National Commission of the JRC to stress the importance I attach to this action. It is up to this committee to propose to me that the JRC label be granted or taken into consideration for new applicants, to deliberate on all questions relating to the JRC and to promote their coherence, networking and exploitation.
I would like to pay tribute to its former president, Mr. René Garrec, for his commitment. I wish to greet Jacques Legendre, who succeeds him, and I would like to thank him warmly for having accepted this office. I would also like to thank all the members of the national commission, with a special thought for the newcomers, Mrs Muriel Marland-Militello, Mrs Françoise Nyssen, MM. Claude Jean and Georges Buisson.

I want to strengthen a network aimed at promoting exemplary methods of conservation and reuse of monuments in order to offer a network of territory through cultural activities, the policy of reception and action of pedagogy of the heritage and the creation towards a large public.

The history of cultural centres of encounter is often that of high places of spirituality, knowledge, thought or power. It is a question of inventing for each of them new contemporary functions, adapted to their history, their architecture, their local environment.

They must be able to represent poles of excellence and reference at the national level for the professionals of the various disciplinary fields concerned, for example dramatic writing, vocal music, architecture, cinematic writing, publishing archives, or contemporary art. Each institution must thus be able to assert a specific role in the network.

Given that the centres are generally located in cultural landscapes of great beauty, often bathed by the river of history, it is also necessary to protect their singularity and fragility, sometimes threatened by urban sprawl or the introduction of new facilities which are harmful to it. I am thinking in particular of wind turbines, which, poorly implanted or inserted, can irreparably destroy the cultural treasure of landscapes built over the centuries by human hands.

Mr President, dear Yves Dauge, I wish today to pay tribute to your action, to your very strong involvement and to the action of your association, created in 1972, which drew up the Charter of Cultural Meeting Centres, It sets out the tasks of the 15 existing centres and those that will be added to them. You have created a European network of 27 establishments and 4 centres around the world, including Quebec and Tunisia. The stakes are high, the relationship between heritage and creation is a considerable asset for the promotion of the construction of Europe and for the enhancement, in this perspective, of the cultural identities that constitute it.

In this spirit, the Odyssée programme aims to welcome artists, researchers and cultural professionals from other countries to France through the implementation of residencies within the Cultural Meeting Centres. This system derives its strength from the flexibility it puts in place to serve artists and centres, the quality of the projects deployed there, links that are long-term and that make it possible to irrigate mainly rural areas, the cooperation it generates over the long term.  Because the “Odyssey” programme is directly in contact with creators and civil society, it is attentive to real needs; and it establishes an intercultural dialogue all the more fruitful as it develops over time. It offers artists a space for reflection and maturation in advance of production that also allows them to immerse themselves and bring a certain look on French society and creation. I note that it also made it possible to welcome artists from New Orleans and Haiti when these places were affected by the natural disasters we know.

It is because it has in-depth knowledge of the network of Centres that the Association of Cultural Meeting Centres is able to establish, for each project, a protocol on a case-by-case basis. It plays the role of a real cultural observatory for the whole programme, through its administrative, logistical and evaluation role.

For their part, the DRAC will investigate the files of the new applications of the centres and will help in the choice of artistic and cultural orientations, as well as in the case of works and development projects subject to the procedures specific to historic monuments, where this is the case. To this end, they will consult the relevant Directorates-General and the Secretariat-General of my Ministry, which will henceforth ensure the coordination of the whole.

Headquarters, assisted by inspections, will ask the DRAC in 2012 for a precise work of identification and evaluation of the most interesting initiatives of cross-valorization between heritage and creation, in order to work with you on an evolution of the mapping of the centres across the national territory. This can be coordinated with the initiative I recently took to award a label «Maisons des illustres» to certain residences linked to the personality of an artist or writer.
I would like to warmly thank my services, the General Secretariat, Guillaume Boudy and especially Jean-François Chaintreau, Head of the Department for the Coordination of Cultural Policies and Innovation, who will be retiring at the end of January, I would like to pay tribute to a career in the service of art and culture, including cultural democratization, for which he has worked tirelessly. I would also like to thank all the DRAC for their involvement in the network.

All the networks formed by the Houses of the Illustrious, the Cultural Centres of Encounters, as well as the cities and countries of art and history of which you have contributed greatly to the development, Mr President, share the same ambition to showcase the immense artistic and historical wealth of our territory. By giving a new impetus to the State support given to the JRCs, I hope that we can contribute to their own creative dynamism, by giving creators the opportunity to carry out their projects, the French or foreign public the chance to discover them, and citizens the opportunity to appropriate a heritage that is intelligently reused and enhanced by creation.

Thank you.